Archive for January, 2009
I continually have to endure every brilliant pearl that falls from her daughter’s lips, every nuance, every sneeze. So many women fall into this trap and end up boring everyone to death with details that parents should keep to themselves. It’s almost as if parenthood sucks up every available brain cell and like the canary, whose brain cells regenerate every year, all previous data is erased forever and all you hear is this year’s song. Kaufman/Mack–Literacy and Longing in L.A.
I love this quote. It is funny and true and also sad. Once most of us become parents we forget about that intimacy created between friends through the sharing of our thoughts, and become good listeners only when it serves our purposes. When I make a new mommy friend, I put her through this test. I say something about my son or daughter and if she listens and asks questions I know she’s a keeper. If, instead, she cuts in and one-ups me, I listen politely and after a few banalities exchanged, I make my exit. I’ve realized something though, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make mommy friends who still separate their individual self from their mother self.
Soon after my son was born, a group of us newly wed mothers of infants (and one newly wed but not yet mother) got together one evening a week, rotating houses, eating and talking our way into the night about everything under the sun. We avoided talking about our babies, not because there was nothing to say, but rather because there was too much, and frankly we were sick of it. We also avoided inviting our husbands (but not the subject) although we did take a bunch of trips together with them, which were entertaining in their own way.
Others were often invited, but our best times were when it was just us five girls and our wailing babies. We learned a lot about each other and from each other. Our feelings were real, no false cheer allowed, no false sympathy. Disappointments, fears, desires that some of us would need an entire life to admit, were easily dispensed with, because we didn’t judge. We were eyewitnesses to each other’s existence. For some of us, it was the only outlet about the disillusions of life.
As the years passed a few other girls became permanent members. Kids have grown, some marriages dissolved, others have gotten stronger, but the purity of the friendships remains. We don’t get together as often as we used to, but when we do it feels like coming home.
A few years ago, probably before my son started school, I came across a book in the bargain aisle at Barnes and Nobles. Now, I normally don’t like bargain aisles because I’m a bit of a condescending snob towards the books that get placed there. I can’t help but believe they must be worthless compared to the ones sold at full price. I know that’s total bullshit, of course. I have learned some amazing things from books purchased from the bargain aisle.
Anyway, Because I Said So, edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses, is a collection of essays written by various famous and not so famous mothers on - what else? - children, faith, aging, sex and the relationships we have with those around us. I have read it once or twice - okay, three times - cause it’s funny as heck, and also filled with the mommy kind of wisdom I don’t always possess.
This entry is not about the book though. Nor is it about my criteria for friendships - yup, I have a criteria for friendship and so should YOU! - the book is rather about the power struggles between mother and son and mother and daughter. Apparently these power struggles go on in every house, but the truth is, until my daughter was born, I had it easy. My son and I were so attuned to each other, that I’d mentally scorn every friend I had who complained about not understanding their kids, vowing I’d never end up like them. They yelled and yelled, whereas I just had to give my son a look. (So yeah, I have this obsession of persistently comparing myself to others, determining my place on some obscure hierarchy of motherhood. All mothers do it. Truly.) Well, then I had a daughter and it was like God said: “Time to pay up for that pompous, conceited, superior attitude, girl. And maybe a little for all the heartache you caused your own sweet mom.”
Because with my daughter every request is met with: “No! I don’t want to do it! Okay?!” followed by a wide eyed stare that could probably freeze running water. In the beginning she was really cute being sassy and all, and my husband and I would try our best to keep straight faces, happy that she was an early talker. Super proud that she was smart. But at the moment, we’re both wondering if maybe she isn’t a little too smart. Let me clarify that, we’re wondering if she isn’t too much of a smart mouth.
Because gosh! Resistance on every issue, disregard for her brother’s toys - or her mother’s shoes, - always a quick comeback. The list goes on and on. My husband likes to remind me that I wanted a girl and I got a girl, so I should quit complaining. He’s right about the girl part, but wrong about the complaining part. I am not complaining. I am trying to raise a loved, happy, brave, strong, AND considerate daughter. I’m sure the Because I Said So mommies will agree with me.